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The pandemic didn’t curb the steady release of new books about wine and spirits over the past year. There were new takes on food and wine paring, thoughtful overviews of noteworthy regions and producers, biographies of key figures in their fields as well as new guides to appreciation and enjoyment. These three books captured my attention and imagination and earned a place on my bookshelf as a useful reference point in the future or to dip back into while enjoying a glass of something special.
Champagne: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers, and Terroirs of the Iconic Region
Ten Speed Press/Random House, $119
Peter Liem covers the Champagne region from top to bottom in this commanding overview. A wine educator with a true passion for the celebrated wine region he calls home, Liem offers discerning overviews of producers while charting the complexity that comes from the array of Champagne’s vineyards and villages. His engaging prose bursts the bubble of marketing and luxury brands to expose the human element of the business and chronicle the ongoing evolution of winemaking in the legendary region. Available as a boxed book and map set (there is also an e-book edition), this beautifully rendered guide to one of the world’s foremost wine regions is a definitive resource.
On California: From Napa to Nebbiolo … Wine Tales from the Golden State
Académie du Vin Library, $57.50
The pandemic didn’t slow down the ambitious publishing schedule of the Académie du Vin Library, which released several enjoyable and insightful books this year, including Oz Clarke on Wine (featured in last week’s column). The equally impressive On California compiles essays from international writers about the Golden State’s wine culture, covering its history, growing conditions, grape varieties, community and international success. Jon Bonné, Elaine Chukan Brown, Hugh Johnson, Paul Draper and Esther Mobley are some of the contributors that add to the far-ranging discussions about California and its wines. Editor Susan Keevil follows the established format of her captivating On Bordeaux anthology, compiling short articles and extracts by some of the foremost wine experts of yesterday and today.
The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails
Oxford University Press, $65
As illuminating and authoritative as the established Oxford Companions to wine and beer, this expansive reference work looks at all facets of distillation with a scholarly eye toward its historical, cultural and practical aspects. More than 1,200 entries are covered in its 960 pages, including notations on how different spirits are produced, key cocktails and influential cocktail bars and mixologists. Illustrations throughout the text bring the listings to life, while useful appendices include a guide to mixing drinks and a timeline of spirits and distillation. Editors David Wondrich and Noah Rothbaum spent the past decade compiling this compelling tome, which should be of keen interest to serious enthusiasts.